For even the most novice of poker players the title of this blog is completely counter intuitive, a run of five cards ALWAYS triumphs over even a pair of Aces. Always that is, except when we are talking about whisky, the enjoyment of which is greatly enhanced when sipped alongside carefully chosen food pairings.
To delve into this topic a little further The Whisky Mill spoke to National Whisky Ambassador for DIAGEO, Katie Nagar.
TWM: Katie, why do you think food pairings add so much to the enjoyment of a whisky?
KN: When asked this question I always think about the Luciano Pavarotti quote “One of the nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop what we are doing and devote our attention to eating” Enjoying food is such a staple part of our daily routine that is no surprise that combining it with great whiskies can expand our experience in beautiful and unexpected ways. When done well these things go together in such a fashion that they can form something very much more than the sum of their parts.
TWM: So, with that in mind do you believe that whisky can be treated in a similar manner to wine and enjoyed as part of a full dining experience?
KN: Absolutely! The purist in me will quickly point out that wine and whisky are very different beasts, but in the context of an immersive dining experience they behave very much the same - highlighting flavour, illuminating nuance, contrasting texture and such. A cunning pairing can often lead us down paths of discovery to new ways of understanding and enjoying flavour of both whisky and food.
TWM: Are there any limitations that you’ve come across
KN: As in life everything has limitations. With whisky we are often talking of bold, high ABV expressions of taste. There is definitely a tipping point where the original message contained in the bottle can begin to be muddied. We may lose something of the original whisky, or the food begins to become overpowered. The best part of pairings is the power and simultaneous subtlety of flavour coming through directness and simplicity of combinations.
TWM: What are some of your key tips when pairing food with whiskies?
KN: Start with trusting your nose. Aroma is everything. Anywhere between 75-90 percent of what we perceive as flavour is due to our sense of smell so let this guide your choices.
As whisky is often so big on flavour it needs food that is rich and powerful to partner with. Don’t pick delicate ingredients or dishes that will be overpowered by the intensity of the whisky.
TWM: What is your preferred store to purchase pairings from?
KN: Simon Johnson is a firm favourite for all things pairing-related – their selection is incredible, and they have incredibly knowledgeable staff. I love browsing their Alexandria store as I always come across something new. With stores in Melbourne and Perth they have a national footprint as well. End of the day no matter where you live there are so many exciting ways to enjoy whisky and food, so get exploring!
TWM: What are some of the most out there yet successful pairings you’ve experienced?
KN: Four come to mind straight away.
- Caol Ila 15 Year Old and Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream, the subtle earthiness and higher ABV complements the freshness of the mint and helps cuts through the rich creaminess of the ice cream.
- Lagavulin 16YO and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Thank me later.
- Give me Talisker 10YO and a doz Oysters on a sunny afternoon any day!
- Oban Distillers Edition and Korean Fried Chicken…trust me.